[b] [size=134]Big impact on the community[/size][/b]
[b]COCHRANE[/b] - The arrival of Junior â€˜Aâ€™ hockey in Cochrane is sure to have a big impact on the community.
â€œWe are absolutely excited, itâ€™s part of a build and development program in the community that we have been part of for the past three years," said Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis.
â€œThis is a status position that we have been trying to achieve and we have achieved it. Itâ€™s not only good for Cochrane, itâ€™s good for the entire region.
â€œWe are going to be playing home games scattered throughout the region, as far west as Hearst and far south as Temiskaming Shores and Timmins to build an audience and to continue to drive the region towards this team.
â€œThis team is not only a team for Cochrane, it is a team for the region along with the other NOJHL teams that are there, so we are very, very excited.
â€œWhen you look at the economic impact in our community on top of all the other benefits that we get, itâ€™s $150,000 a year for next to no investment at all on behalf of the municipality. I think most municipalities would enjoy that opportunity.â€
During the presentation, Terry Vachon, Cochraneâ€™s director of community services, referred to the Tim Horton Event Centre as the Taj Mahal, but it could be argued before Saturdayâ€™s announcement, without an ideal tenant, something was missing.
â€œThis is a beautiful facility,â€ Politis said.
â€œItâ€™s a regional facility. Most people would be surprised to know that our pool, for example, 75% of the usership comes from Timmins.
â€œWe have people from all over the region who come here. This is a beautiful facility. You nailed it right on the head. This is one of the tenants that we were missing in this facility that will allow us to expand and continue to built on it.
â€œFor example, this portion of the facility, on the second floor, there is going to be a media centre, an art gallery that we desperately need in this community, all tying back into the development of the tenants that are here today.â€
The developments referred to by the mayor are part of a three-phase expansion of the Tim Horton Event Centre spurred by the arrival of its new tenant.
â€œRight now we have conceptual drawings for a three-phase development,â€ Vachon said.
â€œThe first phase includes an expansion to the upstairs area, a box seat-style expansion.
â€œThe second phase calls for a second level of bleachers on top of the existing set of bleachers. Right now our existing set of bleachers has six sets of rows of seats and we are looking at expanding to include another two sets on top.
â€œWe would be adding approximately 375 more seats to the facility and about another 200 standing positions.
â€œThe third phase would be the media centre, which would be an expansion on top of our existing lobby area to house perhaps our local radio stations and our local papers to be housed here permanently.â€
Vachon estimates the cost of the planned expansion would be around $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
â€œWe are going out to provincial and federal funding agencies to help support the expansion,â€ he said.
â€œWe are hoping to get at least 90% of the costs of the expansion paid for by the two senior levels of government.â€
And those are not all of the benefits that Vachon sees from the arrival of the Crunch in Cochrane.
â€œThere are so many benefits,â€ he said.
â€œI think one of the main ones is fact that the players will be role models for all the young kids in Cochrane.
â€œI see it in the other communities where they have junior hockey.
These young athletes are positive role models for the kids. Our minor hockey program in Cochrane is going to explode. I can see an increase in enrolment and I can see kids wanting to play for the junior team eventually one day.â€
Politis agrees with the townâ€™s director of community services.
â€œWe started working on this project of bringing a Junior â€˜Aâ€™ hockey team to Cochrane about three years ago,â€ he said.
â€œThere are a lot of benefits that come with Junior â€˜Aâ€™ hockey.
â€œOne would be that it will bring in 20-25 young people into your community who will be role models in the community and provide an opportunity for others in the community to see them as role models.
â€œThese are kids who wear suits and ties, who volunteer in the community and have very high standards in terms of what their expectations are in school, very high standards in terms of what their expectations are in their community involvement.
â€œThey have families who are from around the world.
These kids are from around the world and they visit our community and there are visiting teams who come into our community, as well, to play here who bring families and people and they bring all kinds of economic impact from outside the community, new dollars into this town.
â€œIn this particular case, our impact assessment was looking at about $750,000 of return back into the community and we might invest about $25,000 for adjusting the dressing rooms to make sure they are up to standards and thatâ€™s fine because we will probably get that sponsored, as well.
â€œThe junior hockey club will not belong to the Town of Cochrane, it is private enterprise that is run by a private entrepreneur and in this case by somebody who is renowned for looking after his business in a way that is community oriented and respectful of all the other entities that are there.â€
Expansion of the Tim Horton Event Centre is not the only benefit Cochrane will see from the arrival of Junior â€˜Aâ€™ hocky, of course.
â€œDollar wise, when you are bringing 20 kids to the community that is bringing 20 more cars to the community, thatâ€™s $50 a week per car in fuel being spent at your gas stations, plus vehicle repairs,â€ said Ryan Leonard, owner, coach and general manager of the Bobcats/Crunch.
â€œThe bus that we own, that is another $500 to $1,000 per week spent in fuel in your community.
â€œVisits during the spring, I know last year in the spring we brought 32 families to Elliot Lake, thatâ€™s just April, May and June, to try and get kids to come live in your community for the following winter.
If you average every family that comes up thatâ€™s another $750 to $1,000 over three days in the community between food, lodging and entertainment.
â€œYou bring kids in who might still be in high school, that hockey player who is not from your community is now into your school system and now your school system is getting more dollars for that student.
If you get seven, or eight new hockey players thatâ€™s one more full-time teacher in school.
â€œThe cycle just keeps on going, where money comes into the school and people just donâ€™t see it, but the biggest thing is bringing these players in. They are getting $400 per month for room and board with the families they live with.
You take $400 per month, times 25 players, times eight months, you do the math, thatâ€™s $75,000 to $80,000 being spent in local grocery stores in the area just to feed these kids. And that, in itself doesnâ€™t cover most of these kids because they can really eat.
â€œAnd it just keeps going. I know last night in Elliot Lake we had six families in from out of town, as far away as Chicago and New Jersey.
They come up, the grandparents come, the brothers and sisters come, the girlfriends show up and they are all there for the weekend.
â€œEven if you get one or two families per weekend once or twice a month, that is more dollars being spent in the community that people donâ€™t see until you actually explain to them.
â€œThat is just some of the ways (having a Junior â€˜Aâ€™ hockey team in town) benefits a community. You add in clothing, shaving stuff, etc. It just keeps going on.
â€œOur program alone, we have three families moving here. My family is going to be moving here, our assistant coach who is a retired teacher is going to be moving here as our education co-ordinator and assistant coach and we also have a marketing and advertising guy and his whole family is moving here.â€
Thatâ€™s great news as far as Politis is concerned.
â€œOne of the reasons that we are comfortable with this direction, as a municipality, is Ryan Leonard himself,â€ Politis said.
â€œI think we have one of the best entrepreneurs in the NOJHL, somebody who understands community involvement.
â€œHe hasnâ€™t pushed people away and is extremely good in bringing people in.
â€œYou look at Cochrane Minor Hockey Association, you look at all the other amenities that are part of this junior hockey team, Ryan wonâ€™t be pushing people away, he will be drawing them in and making them part of the program.
â€œLook at the whole program at large and his entrepreneurial way of thinking ... bringing a â€˜AAAâ€™ midget team here, as well.
â€œSo when you look at the growth possibilities around this hockey team and everything that comes behind it, the benefits this community will realize, we are extremely happy and privileged to have this opportunity.â€